Anti-semitism has been a black mark for Christianity over the centuries. The Holocaust is the most appalling example, but there are many others, including the expulsion of Jews from Europe in the 15th century. Unfortunately, the words of Martin Luther, in his later days, have been used to support persecution of Jews.
As Lutherans we bear some responsibility for the way the words of Luther are used and misused. In the 1990s, the Lutheran World Federation and the ELCA repudiated the words of Martin Luther that are viciously anti-Semitic. And, in the wake of some anti-Jewish acts of violence in Billings, the Montana Synod entered into a conversation with the Montana Association of Jewish Communities. That conversation culminated in an agreement in 1995, in which the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Montana Association of Jewish Communities pledged respect, cooperation and mutual understanding.
Now, 20 years later, we want to revisit this historic agreement and re-confirm out commitment to friendship and understanding with the Jewish communities among us. Although we differ theologically on significant issues—most notably on Jesus as Messiah and the Trinity—we share a common biblical heritage, and a common commitment to serve God and neighbor. To note this 20 year anniversary, we have invited Pr. Paul Seastrand, principle author of the agreement, and former Bishop Mark Ramseth, who was Bishop at the time of the agreement. Members of the Jewish community have also been invited, to take part in a re-affirmation.
In much of the “Christian” world through the ages, Jews have been persecuted for being Jews. In the Middle Ages, when Jews were being attacked and expelled from Christian Europe, they were welcomed into Muslim North Africa and Middle East. Although we hear about animosity between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East today—largely because of the Israeli-Palestinian situation-- there are places in Muslim countries where Jewish and Christian shrines are carefully tended by their Muslim neighbors.
We do not agree on all things. Issues related to Israel and Palestine can be particularly divisive.
But then we are not of one mind within our own religious groups on these difficult issues, either.
But the point is not to form a political action coalition. It is rather to recognize the common
humanity and religious roots of our fellow followers of the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac
and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel.
I look forward to seeing you at the Assembly, and to reaffirming our commitment to our
relationship with the Montana Association of Jewish Communities.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA